Sunday, June 20, 2010

WAAC play


“Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.
Saavik: What?
David Marcus: He cheated.
Kirk: I changed the conditions of the test…….. I don't like to lose.”

WAAC…(Win At All Costs)…it used to be politically correct.
It was the ‘evolution’ of words such as cheezy, beardy etc. Those words were ephemeral, undefined and without weight. This new word lent weight and authority to accusations of being ‘rooked’. A ‘scientific’ word, an acronym. It was validation to see for those that didn’t understand.
It, like the poorer words before it, is used without understanding… It was a way for some to assuage their wounded pride, and a tool to belittle those that just flat out beat us.
But it does have application, regardless of its common misuse.
If we apply these feelings to an opponent’s list, we are wrong. An army list, no matter what is legally in it, is a proper application of the tools given to us by the designers. We cannot cheat the spirit of the game if we don’t cheat the (codex/book etc) rules. The spirit of the game, old new or in the middle, is defined by the people who supply us these tools. We can whine about what the old days were like, what the designers intended, or what our personal take on the universe is but in the long run it is just that…whining. If we have an understanding with a(some) regular opponent(s) and that is violated, we can gribble a little bit TO THEM DIRECTLY for said perceive slight in order to discover where we(either player, ourselves included) did not meet preconceived notions…but truly bitching afterward is our issue, not theirs.
If we apply WAAC to rules interpretations we misunderstood, didn’t bother to run out to their logical conclusion or don’t think fit ‘our’ universe, then we failed ourselves for missing something in the overall tool-kit that was given to us. Rules are a tool to define the conventions that we play under. Failing to understand them is a failure on our part to uphold those conventions, not a failure on our opponent’s part to play in our sandbox in a fair manner. This is often not our intent, but claiming someone is WAAC because they found (on their own, or the webbernetz) a rule interaction we failed to, should be a moment of revelation for us not an excuse to bitch about or belittle our partner in this dance of death. I’ve thanked a few people for pointing out things I simply missed (or confused with 4 previous editions stored in my cabeza) because it makes me a BETTER PLAYER. I won’t be caught out by these errors again (I’ll find new ones, don’t worry). I didn’t consider it WAAC that they saw an interaction I didn’t, I just stored it for further use.
When we go to the table to play a game, we all go with preconceived notions, conventions if you will, of what to expect. With these conventions, we define an upcoming relationship with guidelines that are supposed to insure a fair and level playing field. These sometimes don’t jive with our opponent’s perceptions. When and where they conflict is often where we find ourselves feeling taken advantage of (incorrectly for the most part) and a sense of WAAC play can grow out of this. What we, as players, need to do is understand that whenever we feel slighted by these situations it is our responsibility to discover the discrepancy and fix it. Evaluate where the resentment (because that’s what it is) comes from. If we’re honest, we’ll often discover it is growing from an error of perception on our side of the table. If it’s in a regular group or with a friend, discuss the issue, open your mouth, yeah that means talk about it. Don’t accuse, don’t present why you’re feeling downtrodden, just try to fix it so that later on you can play without misunderstandings.
WAAC is real though. It is the Kobyashi Maru scenario. It is where opponent’s really do not care about fair, and attempt to ‘alter the conditions of the test’ and have no shame about it. No concern about the bitter taste it leaves in the wake of their opponent’s wreckage, or the chain of events that led them to a victory in an arena of perceived superiority. Their lists may be power, their rules knowledge may be concrete and their tactical acumen may be unlike most you’ve seen…but these all pale in comparison to their desire to WIN, and they do not rely solely on these tools. In fact, these tools are merely a less valued part of their arsenal. They revel in the manipulation of the conditions that surround what should be a contest of skill and steel, calm and carnage. A WAAC player is not content to win with their skills as the sole determining factor of victory, he/she wants to stack the deck first.
We won’t go into cheating in depth, as that is flat out violation of convention. It is the most blatant (yet only the subtle cheat gets away with it consistently) type of WAAC play. It is simply defined. Cheating is ignoring or altering the rules when your opponent does not have the acumen to catch it. Adding models, weighted dice, omission or addition. It’s all the same. It blurs with the following, but is more a blatant violation than a subtle manipulation. Cheating can be both the worst violation, yet easiest to catch with awareness (and easiest to call a TO in to correct).
WAAC players that don’t really cheat look for the most subtle loopholes in the test itself to manipulate to their advantage. Often, the implications of these violations are not realized until after the contest is complete. These players try to note whenever something appears so obvious to everyone that no actual written word confirms the understood (or book/dex interactions define). Examples include the ‘Daemon Clause’ in the recent few Ard Boyz rounds; altering the order of scenarios in Ard Boyz semi-finals in order to sidestep a perceived weakness in a particular round/scenario matchup; convincing opponents that terrain should be ‘placed’ when it actually is pre-set; browbeating players into accepting that additional ‘reserve edges’ include DOW 1st turn arrivals…etc etc. Little things on the surface that at that particular moment, either from a TO’s /Judge’s perspective or an opponent’s across the table seem almost sensible. The WAAC player knows damn right well what he’s done/doing, but is like a used car salesman in delivery and a BP CEO’s in denial of culpability.
Another WAAC symptom is the ‘sleight of hand’. It’s not always cheating per-se, but involves fast moving; slow playing; moving/removing units; quick scooping dice; adding anything that will allow for more and more errors on the part of their opponent. Frustration from being slow played is easy. Take as much time as possible for the first 2/3 of a round, getting your opponent eager to wrap things up. Get their rhythm off and then change pace utterly for a ‘rush’ at the end. Hell, if you’re not obvious about it you can even start implying slow play on their part toward the end to rush them further. Move and re-move models…every possible 1/8 of an inch can get you that much closer to a charge. Fast count your dice and scoop, hoping to add a ‘hit’, or better yet scoop the hits first. Then change how you pick up dice when the actual hits are in your favor. My person douchey fave to see, use a tape measure to draw LOS all over the table…it’s amazing how few failed charges/out of range shooting moments will occur when your opponent lets you do this!
WAAC players have little actual conscience when it comes to the ‘win’. They will attempt to cover the infraction (when discovered) in a veneer of legitimacy. Utilize the Judge’s ruling or TO’s lack of understanding as a first line of defense (the Judge said yes, so it wasn’t cheating…etc). They will lump their actions into a group mentality when they can (other’s agreed). Finally, they will simply blame their opponent(s) lack of knowledge for allowing it to happen (not my fault he didn’t know the Tervigon couldn’t move before spawning, I just forgot at the moment). These players really do give a bad name to the hobby as a whole, and the competitive environment in particular. A side effect many people don’t consider is that the great players and the WAAC players often come to events with similar lists and rules knowledge. They ‘appear’ similar on the surface. Many good WAAC players will put you at ease, and lull you into a false sense of comraderie. Just remember, it really is our responsibility as a player to calmly and politely refuse the little manipulations they employ, in our own defense, and simply deny them opponents on their off-tourney time when we are out to have fun.


  1. Nice article. I know a few gamers like this. Some even win armies with this idealogy...